Williamson: Covid is an ‘opportunity’ to drive education reforms

levelling up

Innovations in education seen during the coronavirus pandemic such as blended learning should have a “lasting impact” beyond the next two years, the education secretary has said.

Gavin Williamson told a webinar organised by the Foundation for Education Development this morning that the pandemic had presented an “opportunity to make the changes that need to be made” to improve the education system.

As we move out of this, we have to use this as an opportunity to make the changes that need to be made

The schools community was forced to adapt quickly following the decision to partially close settings in March, with leaders forced to find ways to continue to educate millions of children remotely.

The scramble for solutions led to the creation of online learning platforms like the Oak National Academy, which received government funding to scale its model up.

As the government’s attention has turned to the return of pupils to schools and learning lost during the pandemic, other initiatives have emerged, including the DfE-funded National Tutoring Programmme.

During today’s webinar, which was convened to celebrate 150 years of state education, Williamson said he hoped future generations would look back on the “resilience, resourcefulness and ingenuity” shown by educators “in the most extreme of circumstances”.

“As we move out of this, we have to use this as an opportunity to make the changes that need to be made, to make sure that our education system is stronger for the future than it has been in the past,” he said.

Williamson said the pandemic had seen “new ideas emerge”, such as “new platforms, new ways of teaching, new ways of being able to ensure that children from whatever background are able to benefit”. He mentioned blended learning and singled out Oak and the NTP – two government backed schemes – for praise.

“All of these ideas will hopefully have a lasting impact not just for the next year or the next two years, but will have a lasting impact on the education of our children and make it better, make sure that they get more out of it,” he continued.

“Education should never be about standing still. It should never be saying that we’ve got everything right and therefore do not need to change. We should always be looking at how we can innovate, how we can reform, how we can drive change that will benefit children. That is what we are going to be doing as we come out of Covid.”

It comes after the government announced it would continue to fund the Oak National Academy to the tune of £4.3 million this year.

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  1. Janet Downs

    Beware centrally-driven ‘reforms’ which advocate a tiny number of government-approved resources. Schools should be free to use what resources they feel are best for their pupils. They should not be expected to conform to those which match ministers’ prejudices.

  2. John Andrew Hartley

    Schools have been free to use whatever they think best for a long time and look where that has got us. Schools that don’t prepare students for modern life and schools that see technology as an expensive distraction. By the end of September schools are expected to have an online provision that matches very closely what is provided in school. Many schools do not see this as a priority and have gone back to same old same old. At this stage these schools have shown that they are not fit for purpose and need to be directed. Technology should be an integral part of most lessons, as it is an integral part of life, business and industry, not a token gesture carried out in a computer room every few weeks.

  3. Felicity Leslie

    Considering the severe criticisms of the education system in the UK since 2010 when the P.I.S.A results revealed a ” stagnating curriculum” & very few changes since then plus the severe criticisms in December 2019, prior to COVID, when STILL not enough had been changed for the better and the UK was still roughly 20th or just above out of 78 countries in Reading, Maths & Science.
    With its ” narrow curriculum”, ” too much testing ” & “teaching to the test” being imposed on teachers in the UK & therefore children and teachers professionalism & input was not being valued or considered. The children were not getting the best or a very valuable education.
    And the impact of schooling was causing too high a proportion of children to have mental health issues over school and this was causing them to be miserable & feel that they had “no future ” etc.
    There are an ever increasing number of children going to GPs & School counsellors with school related stress, especially caused the Sats etc.
    In reflecting on schools, SATs , A levels, the role of OFSTED etc. NOW is an ideal time to reflect on all the bad practice & to listen to the children and all school staff and those who ACTUALLY teach children & their advice, knowledge & professional ‘ hands on ‘ experience as to what is BEST for children and actually produce a good, decent education in the UK.
    Looking towards a country like Finland and all that they have achieved in the past 20 years using teachers to devise their education & NOT ministers & thetefore do what is best for ALL children is a great example of how to do the best for the children. Not just use them as ” guinea pigs “.
    OFSTED needs ALSO to look at its negative, unhelpful “role” and look at schools and using teacher advisors who could support & help schools not just make comments & criticisms. BUT ACTUALLY HELP.
    The WHOLE education system in the UK needs a complete overhaul
    and all of the enormous salaries etc radically condidered when the children miss out & have been missing out horrendously.